Bullish 03.16.17: Fred Must Go
Bullish is an attempt to parse the narrative of the Chicago Bulls season. In most seasons, it’s pretty obvious (recently the narrative centered on the health and ability of Derrick Rose), this season is much more complicated. I used to write about NBA for the New York Sun and The Root with occasional contributions to Slate and the Wall Street Journal. I found then that distance was often an asset, so while I’d rather patrol the sideline and press box of the United Center, there’s insight to be had from the vantage point of my tiny Manhattan apartment too.
Over the weekend, even before the debacle in Boston and well before news of Dwyane Wade’s season ending elbow injury broke, I began to conclude that it was time for the Fred Hoiberg Ewas time for the Fred Hoiberg eWade’xperiment to end. Lots of valid arguments can be made that he’s not the primary reason that the Bulls are a mess, and I’m under little illusion that his departure will make a substantial long term difference in the franchise, but it’s time for him to go and the reason is simple. After a season and three quarters, it has become abundantly obvious that he isn’t going to lead an NBA team to the Finals.
And if your coach isn’t going to get your team to the promised land or at least moving in that direction, then he shouldn’t be your team’s coach.
Yes, the front office duo of Gar Forman and John Paxson are the primary culprits for the mess that is on the hardwood floor at the United Center (and gee, the contrast between the Bulls their stadium-mates, the Chicago Blackhawks has probably never been greater), but Hoiberg isn’t helping and shows no sign of getting it. His rotations are a mess. His playing time allocations look like they were drawn from a hat at the beginning of each game. The Bulls are tactically weak, and they fail to adjust to other team’s halftime adjustments. Lastly there’s no direction or discipline on the team.
Hoiberg was hired two summers ago after a coaching search that included well, no one else. It was old school Chicago ward politics at its best. He was pals with Forman and Paxson and was handed a plum job. The hiring screamed for the institution of a Rooney Rule in the NBA, though it’s hard to argue that GarPax would have hired oh say, Tyronn Lue or David Fizdale were they candidates.
This summer the Bulls need to engage in a real coaching search by interviewing lead assistants with several successful NBA franchises (please no more NCAA coaches; Brad Stevens notwithstanding, Hoiberg is the latest in a long line of college coaches who failed in the pros). There needs to be transparency and rigor. I’m unconvinced that GarPax will lead the Bulls to an NBA Finals either and maybe their ineptitude in a high profile search will move them closer to the door.
Meanwhile, I’m in favoring of firing Hoiberg now. Yeah, I know that there are only 14 games left in the season and I’m aware that losses the Bulls would incur under Hoiberg might improve their draft position, but I think an interim coach, perhaps Jim Boylen who coached with San Antonio, might begin to implement some structure and put the Bulls many young players on the path to steady, consistent development. It’s clear that Hoiberg won’t do that, and that’s another reason he needs to go.